On most days, the Green Bank Library is a nice, quiet place for community members to check out books and utilize other services, but on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, it gets a little rowdy thanks to a group of ladies who have some things in common – knitting and crocheting, and the gift of gab.
It’s not uncommon to hear bursts of laughter emanating from the multi-purpose room of the library when the ladies get together. Whether they are sharing stories about the patterns they are making or memories of days gone by, they keep themselves in stitches as they stitch.
The group began meeting when friends and knitters Linda Stewart, of Green Bank, and Joann Fromhart, of Dunmore, decided it would be fun to get a group together to chat and stitch.
Stewart began knitting in high school and the craft became a large part of her life.
“[My mother] taught me,” she said. “I don’t even remember what we did. I make scarves, dishrags, baby blankets, big afghans. I never tried to make sweaters. I’m sure I’ve been knitting for forty-plus years. I knit when I watch TV, when I’m on a trip and if I’m sitting still somewhere. I knit because I can’t just sit and not be doing something.”
Stewart gives away most of the items she makes – most family members have at least one afghan – but she also sells work at the Green Bank Gallery and local craft shows.
Fromhart also began knitting in high school, but was taught by her home economics teacher.
“I’ve been knitting since 1948,” she said. “My home ec teacher taught us to knit and crochet. I see her every year – we go back to our alumni banquet at Newburg – and I always take a sweater or something to show her that I’m still knitting. It was just something I like to do. I’m not a TV fan. We had a new TV for six months and I had never turned it on.”
Fromhart has made more than 100 sweaters in her lifetime and just recently sold her first knitted piece. Everything she makes is given as gifts.
Passing on the tradition, Fromhart, who was a teacher at Green Bank High School and later Green Bank Elementary-Middle School, taught several of her students how to knit.
After the ladies began the knitting group, word traveled through their friends and soon the group grew to knitters as well as crocheters.
Hilda Brock, of Boyer, is a third generation crocheter, although she did try her hand at knitting, once.
“I knit a sweater one time, and I was at my mom’s house when I got it done,” Brock recalled. “She said, ‘well throw it in the dryer and soften it up.’ I did and it shrunk. I never even got to wear it. So, I don’t knit anymore. I crochet.”
Brock learned from her grandma and mom, and soon made it a tradition to crochet an item each year for everyone on her Christmas list.
“I usually pick one thing each year for Christmas, and I’ve got plenty of them, too,” she said. “One year I made scarves. One year I made sweaters. I do that all the time. I have so many family members that I can’t buy for all of them.”
For Arbovale resident Dotty McLaughlin, knitting was one of those things she always wanted to do but nearly became something she never learned.
“I always wanted to learn to knit, but I’m left-handed and nobody could teach me,” she said. “There were no instructions written at that time, so when I got married the first time, [my then sister-in law] Trudy Underwood said, ‘I can teach you how to knit.’ She taught me right-handed. I can’t knit left-handed.”
Although she used to knit elaborate sweaters, McLaughlin now specializes in fingerless gloves, which requires the use of four double-pointed needles.
“I’ve made sweaters and scarves and baby sets – all that stuff,” she said. “When I first started, I put all kinds of designs on the sweaters – rabbits and bears. I loved it. I never made an afghan. I do want to learn how to make an afghan.”
Each lady has her own style, her own technique and her own preferences. For some, they prefer the larger projects, while others excel at the smaller, more intricate patterns.
Green Bank resident Freda McKean does a little bit of both. For a long time, she knitted baby clothes, hats and sweaters, but now, she is in scarf mode.
“I started knitting when I was ten, back in 1958 and my older brother was being taught at the same time,” she said. “I just knit little narrow things – scarves and so on. I’ve knit for fifty-seven years. I enjoy it. I knit mostly baby sweaters, baby caps and now, I’m going through a siege of scarves. I did make a sweater one time out of Pocahontas wool from Betty Burford’s farm.”
It was an adult size sweater for her son, and it didn’t come out quite like she expected.
“When he put it on, the right sleeve was four inches longer than the left and he barely could get it over his chest,” she said. “It was so tight, so I took it out. Then I just made other sweaters for my two daughters and for my granddaughters.”
While Fromhart has made more than 100 sweaters, McKean said she has made more than 100 baby caps.
“I’ve given some to the hospital in Elkins and my sister took some back to Ohio with her,” McKean said. “They’re for newborn babies. That’s fun. It’s just a good way to relax.”
As if baby clothes weren’t small enough, Green Bank resident Pat Thompson found her niche knitting and crocheting doll clothes.
She began knitting in the seventh grade when she was living in California.
“It was for sewing class really, but when you finished your projects in sewing, you better be doing something, so there were a couple of us that finished and they got us started with a couple knitting needles,” Thompson said. “I would say the sewing part is my first love, but now I enjoy crocheting and knitting, too.”
For Thompson, crocheting and knitting is a nice alternative to have because projects are more portable than a sewing project.
“The thing about crocheting and knitting is, it’s just so quiet and so self-contained,” she said. “It’s portable. You just take it anywhere, work on it anytime. It’s a conversation starter with other people.”
As the ladies admire each other’s work, a few weighed in on which they prefer – knitting or crocheting.
“I thought I would learn to knit, but it just didn’t go that well after my sweater,” Brock said, laughing.
“I don’t crochet, and I don’t intend to learn to crochet,” Stewart said. “I’ll stick with knitting. I had a student one time try to teach me to crochet and he finally gave up and said, ‘I think you should just stick to knitting. I don’t think you’re going to get it.’”
So, whether you knit or crochet, or cross stitch, or embroider, the group welcomes all crafters who want to craft and chat.
The group meets at the Green Bank Library the first and third Wednesday of each month from 1 to 3 p.m.
“More people are welcome to come,” Stewart said. “We help each other if you have a problem. Sometimes we teach a little. We share ideas. We’d love to have more people.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org